Latest update: April 10th, 2013
I am a proud graduate of the Cardozo School of Law, and I support the right of the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution to bestow the International Advocate for Peace Award upon former US president Jimmy Carter. And I do not agree with the so-called “Coalition of Concerned Cardozo Alumni” who asked Cardozo Alumni to “to condition any continued support of Cardozo, be it financial or otherwise, on the cancellation of this event” (although I respect their efforts).
From the outset, a clarification is needed: the law school, as such, is not granting Carter the peace prize. Nor is the administration. Rather, it is the the Journal of Conflict Resolution — a student publication with a long history of honoring problematic public figures. This is a very important distinction: there are a lot of student-run journals (think of it as a type of club) on the Cardozo campus, and they enjoy the autonomy to run events such as this one.
When I was at the law school, the very same journal awarded Desmond Tutu the very same prize. Back then, there was this nice girl named Melissa, and she had formed the first pro-Israel club in the 25 years of Cardozo history. It was called CHAI: Cardozo Heightening Awareness for Israel – and she asked me to be the Vice-President of the club.
Soon after, Tutu, the Holocaust denier was about to show up on campus. Melissa and I put up posters all over campus with Tutu’s quotes. In 1988 he alleged that Zionism had “very many parallels with racism”, and regarding the Holocaust he said: “But who pays the penance? The penance is being paid by the Arabs, by the Palestinians. I once met a German ambassador who said Germany is guilty of two wrongs. One was what they did to the Jews. And now the suffering of the Palestinians.” And, of course, who can forget his lamenting of “the Jewish monopoly of the Holocaust” and his classic anti-Semitic fear-mongering: “the Jewish lobby is powerful – very powerful,”
We tried to shut down the event, but were rejected on the ground of academic freedom. Melissa and I then asked the administration for the right to organize a protest on campus. Our beloved Dean David Rudenstine told us that we may protest, but only outside the building.
I said to him: “Dean, Yeshiva University and Cardozo Law are private schools. They were established by the Jewish people so that our children would no longer be kept out of higher education. Now an anti-Semite is coming to our private school, established by our people precisely because of people like him — and I am the one who is going to be kicked out of the building?”
Dean Rudenstine relented. We had an amazing protest in the lobby of the law school, with placards detailing Tutu’s opinions. As Tutu walked by he was booed by many students who had joined CHAI’s loud and proud protest. Tutu had egg on his face, and I am not certain that the prize he received from the Journal of Conflict Resolution was worth the embarrassment for him. He certainly did not look happy.
Now Jimmy Carter is about to get that prize, and he is, indeed, a manipulative, long time anti-Israel agitator. In my class on Conflict Resolution at Cardozo, I read about how Carter bullied Prime Minister Begin at Camp David to give up on Israel’s vital security needs. Like Tutu, Carter equates Israel’s policies to the South Africa’s Apartheid regime, conveniently forgetting that Israel is actually the country most under threat of annihilation by the real racists of the Jihad. Carter also fails to mention that Israel is the shining star of freedom in the whole Middle-East and, instead, he embraces Hamas. In short, Jimmy Carter is to be reviled by lovers of Israel and lovers of freedom and peace of worldwide, and it is shocking that he should be honored by anyone claiming to be a Journal of Conflict Resolution at Cardozo.
However, while I respect the actions of those trying to stop the event from taking place, forcing the administration to shut down the event will smack of silencing academic freedom. It will look as though outside actors are using economic boycotts to shut the mouth of a freedom activist. It would be far-better for Cardozo students to vigorously protest the choice of their colleagues to reward this sinister man with a Peace Prize. I hope that, as in the past, there are law students at Cardozo today who will write, hang posters, assemble, and make their voices heard in condemning the warped reality which Carter represents. A groundswell of young protesters will look better then a top-down economic pressure. (However, while I do not necessarily agree with their course of action, it is good to see folks like “Coalition of Concerned Cardozo Alumni” making a fuss!)
To be sure, I lost some friends at Cardozo — those who brought Tutu into the campus. But I earned the respect of many fellow would-be lawyers and opinion makers, and I taught them (and myself) the value of standing firmly for what one believes to be true. At graduation, Dean Rudenstine gave me a big hug when he handed me my JD on stage, and that girl, Melissa, who started CHAI, is now known as Malkah Fleisher, and lives in Jerusalem today.
About the Author: Yishai Fleisher is the Contributing Editor and PR manager at the JewishPress.com, and Israel's only English language broadcast radio show host (Galey Yisrael 106.5FM). Yishai is an Israeli Paratrooper, a graduate of Cardozo Law School, and the founder of Kumah ("Arise" in Hebrew), an NGO dedicated to promoting Zionism and strengthening Israel's national character. Yishai is married to Malkah, they have two children, and they live on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
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